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Start Talking (Positively) about Competitors: How AV Marketing Needs to Change

Why do some people in AV marketing shy away from mentioning other companies in a positive way? Can this make your company’s social media seem boring? By Daniel Newman

TEN YEARS AGO, before social media was a dominant part of AV marketing, the average marketer for an AV integrator, if he or she had one at all, was responsible for creating cut sheets, company overviews, case studies, and of course, managing the company website. Most often, the website was an electronic version of the aforementioned collateral. Oh, and all of this marketing was to be paid for by MDF money raised through programmatic dollars raised for the sale of projectors into corporations and classrooms.

The other day I had a conversation where I learned about a senior AV marketing executive in a big company that forbids the publishing of any article on social media that so much as mentions a competitor. Hearing further that it doesn’t even matter if the article is positive about their company, they absolutely cannot promote anything that promotes the work of another vendor.

After I was done laughing, I paused and felt a bit of nausea come over me. Over 10 years of growing relevance in the medium, and most integration companies still don’t get how to use social media.

Of course, an AV integrator wouldn’t share a great case study about another company or anything that overtly points to negative press about that integrator's own company. But to be so myopic as to think that a single share of an article that provides insights on a competitive technology or case study is a big deal just blows me away.

The belief that the reader is likely to consume your tweet, learn about the product, and refuse to buy from you because he/she saw the name of a competitor in your tweet shows a sort of ignorance that cannot continue to exist if we are to see the AV industry become effective at marketing its efforts.

I share content and ideas from other analysts and media on a daily basis—from big firms like Gartner and from independents that have businesses almost exactly like mine. Maybe I’m just secure in who I am and the business I run, but I would also attribute it to a long history as a salesperson who realizes that passing a compliment about another company in the same business doesn’t mean you will lose the business. In fact, it probably reflects better on you than putting down the competition, which makes you look further insecure in your own abilities.

While the comment that I heard in passing was isolated, it wasn’t the first time I heard an AV marketing colleague freak out about a tweet or link inside of an article that gave even the smallest props to another company. In fact, it’s been somewhat of an epidemic, and after years of hearing this nonsense, I must speak out.

Social media and content are not designed to be vehicles of tireless self-promotion. “We want more engagement,” is oft heard inside one of my firms that supports marketing for numerous tech companies, including some in AV. Well, guess what: If your content is all about you, people probably won’t be too interested.

It’s like a bad date with the self-absorbed person. No second date. If you set up your parameters where everything that is shared needs to be cleansed to such a point that not one drop of competition or negativity about a solution can be found in its existence, your content and social media utopia will probably be a snooze fest. (You can only share that terrible interview your CEO did for the local biz rag so many times).

Those in AV marketing need to wake up to how the trade works in other spaces. Companies like IBM and Cisco constantly retweet articles that I share that mention other players. In fact, many tech companies have extraordinary collaborations with each other despite the competition between products. I mentioned IBM above, they have a competitive product for almost everything, but they have partnerships with almost every company in the tech space.

Yes, I realize integrators are much smaller than these tech behemoths, but the point is that, at a marketing and company level, they are secure enough to partner and compete with the same organization. Many integrators do this with their labor forces but would never admit it. (As if the customer really thinks you have an office in rural North Dakota. Laughable!).

That integrators still have senior executive marketers that market like it is 2007 scares the heck out of me. I’m frightened that most have no idea how social media works and that the few who do are never the ones making strategic decisions. The whole “on brand” thing in social media is a bit of an illusion as these channels aren’t supposed to be marketing as much as they are…well… social. But too often that point is missed, so we fill our feeds with self-serving garbage that our own employees don’t want to read.

It’s time for a change, people. And if you are leading AV marketing efforts, it’s time for you to understand it well enough that you can explain to your bosses why a tweet that mentions another integrator or an article that says something negative about overhead slide projectors isn’t going to cause your demise. That, my friends, will be the result of your stupidity, which if you have read this and you continue to market like it's 1999, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Onward!

This article was originally published by our content partner Commercial Integrator.

Image: Pixabay